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Later breakfast time could benefit students, research shows

New research from UAMS shows that students having breakfast after the bell could be beneficial for students as it improves their productivity and participation.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — You hear all the time that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it's a meal that many of us tend to skip– including students. 

There's a number of different reasons that could cause people to skip the meal, but for students breakfast is even more crucial as it's a before-the-bell kind of meal.

New research from UAMS, however, shows that that may not be the best time for students to have the meal though.

"That's the tantalizing evidence. If we can do a little better when our people are young, we can make a difference in their life," Dr. Michael Thomsen, professor and researcher at UAMS, said.

For Dr. Thomsen, child nutrition is everything. That research conducted by him is helping us understand more about child nutrition.

"We can improve the learning environment in schools through how we deliver breakfast and making it available, more children can participate," he said.

That research stems from a simple idea – how do students respond when breakfast is served after the first bell rather than before?

"Our statistical model would project that there were about 18,000 fewer disciplinary infractions reported to the Arkansas Department of Education from breakfast after the bell schools," Dr. Thomsen said.

To put it bluntly, when kids eat later, they're less frustrated and more focused on their classes. Dr. Thomsen's research shows many school districts in the area already do some variation on this, in the form of grab-and-go meals, or even snacks available through the day.

The Lakeside School District is one that's already doing something similar.

"I think it is super important for us to give that second chance opportunity for students because it helps them focus," Mary Webb, Child Nutrition Director at Lakeside, said.

Webb said they can see the benefits when students can get a meal later in the day.

"Our productivity and our participation went really high when we were able to offer that second chance," she said.

Back at UAMS, Dr. Thomsen said there's no downsides to this. It doesn't cost schools more, and test scores don't drop.

It's why he's encouraging all schools at least consider something like this in the future.

"All the other evidence suggest it will be beneficial," he said. "And we really see a significant effect on behavior, we have children who are settled down and ready to learn when they've had breakfast."

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